It’s a new season ahead for us all, and for the Sheffield Steelers it’s no exception. Last season was a disappointing one for the Steelers as they failed to pick up any silverware at all and had a very inconsistent season all round. Can the new look Steelers right that wrong? Let’s look at the roster, position by position.
Netminders: Jackson Whistle (recruited from Belfast) and Brad Day (retained)
Ervins Muštukovs is gone as the starting netminder for the Steelers after spending the last two seasons in the House of Steel. The Latvian was not offered a new deal by the Club as they have undergone a complete revamp, and has joined Nice in the Ligue Magnus. Coming in as his replacement, and in a carbon copy of the Cardiff Devils netminding set-up, is GB internationalist Jackson Whistle from the Belfast Giants. Some doubts remain whether of the older son of former Steelers Head Coach Dave will be able to complete a full season without injury issues. Backing him up is Huddersfield-born Brad Day who now begins his fourth season at the Steelers, how many starts will he get? One thing is for sure, Day will not let the Steelers down if called upon.
Jackson Whistle – Picture courtesy of icehockey.co.uk
Defencemen: David Phillips and Mark Matheson (retained), Jiri Gula (HC Litvinov), Ryan Martinelli (Belfast), Aaron Johnson (Adler Mannheim), Josh McFadden (University of Guelph), Jordan Griffin (Bradford Bulldogs)
Five new names line up on the Steelers’ blue line this season, with the most noticeable omission being the ever-popular Zack Fitzgerald who has rejoined the renamed Glasgow Clan after three seasons in Sheffield. Dependable GB internationalist David Phillips commences his third season at the Steelers, and last season’s Player of the Year Mark Matheson comes back for a second. Of the newcomers: the towering Ryan Martinelli arrives from Belfast to be reunited with Jackson Whistle, 200 game plus former NHLer Aaron Johnson comes after spending two seasons in the DEL, Czech Jiri Gula comes on the back of a recommendation from former Steelers netminder Marek Pinc, Josh McFadden is back in the professional ranks after returning to university whilst Jordan Griffin arrives as the latest Steelers’ apprentice.
David Phillips – Picture courtesy of Dean Woolley
Forwards: Kieran Brown, Robert Dowd and Jonathan Phillips (retained), Ryan Rupert and Matt Rupert (Indy Fuel), Justin Buzzeo (Ravensburg Towerstars), Evan McGrath and Stefan Della Rovere (EC Kassel Huskies), Tanner Eberle (Jacksonville Ice Men), Chris Lawrence (Dundee Stars), Jordan Owens (Fischtown Pinguins), Josh Pitt (Kalamazoo Wings), Brandon Whistle (Salmon Arm Silverbacks)
A load of new faces in the forward ranks this season for the Steelers. Stalwarts Mathieu Roy, Levi Nelson and Colton Fretter have all hung up the skates whilst in the big story highly rated Brit Liam Kirk will be icing for the Peterborough Petes of the OHL after being chosen in the recent 2018 NHL draft. Chris Lawrence returns to Sheffield in a surprise transfer but will add size and experience to the fourth line. There are high hopes for the Rupert twins and Josh Pitt, the latter coming off the back of career-high 30 goal season in the ECHL. There’s plenty of youth and experience there but the lack of an out and out enforcer is something that worries a few.
Overall: This could be make or break in 2018-19 for Paul Thompson as he enters his fourth season as the Steelers GM and Head Coach. After the trophy-less campaign of 2017-18, Thompson is still under pressure to deliver from numerous parts of the Steelers fan base and rightly so. Steelers had a roster last season that if they gelled then it could have run Cardiff close but inconsistency ruined that. Therefore the Singapore-born head coach has gone back to basics and gone through a mass reshaping of his roster.
He’s brought in a mixture of young talents and experienced names, whilst adopting the two British netminder model that has brought success in Belfast and Cardiff in recent seasons as it enables the Steelers to have the extra outskater option. A lot will depend on if the newcomers hit the ground running. If they do then Steelers could launch a challenge for honours but if not, the heat will certainly be on. It certainly promises to be eventful in some way, shape or form.
Featured image courtesy of braeheadclan.com (probably by Al Goold Photo)